Tennessee First to the Top

About Tennessee First to the Top

After being awarded over $501 million the federal government's Race to the Top competition in 2010, Tennessee has embarked on a once in a lifetime opportunity and several projects.


At the heart of improving student achievement is a focus on three main student performance goals: young students' academic readiness, high school graduates' readiness for college and careers, and higher rates of graduates enrolling and succeeding in post-secondary education. Amongst these initiatives, Tennessee has a renewed focus on developing and improving great teachers and leaders in Tennessee classrooms. Tennessee's First to the Top plan has given the state unique resources and financial opportunities - placing renewed focus on the classroom teacher and a more dedicated focus on encouraging student achievement.


Through recently  awarded funding such as the Innovation Acceleration Fund, Teacher Incentive Fund and Teacher and Principal Residency grants , Tennessee has the opportunity to strengthen the education profession as a whole-from students to teachers. These funding opportunities commit education reform to district level changes in compensation structures, increased teacher recruitment and retention efforts and sustainability beyond the span of First to the Top plans and grant periods.


Tennessee's focus is not just about funding, but providing all with the feedback and support they need to succeed. Department staff continue training with schools participating in the state field test of the observation rubric for a new teacher and principal evaluation system. Teachers were invited to tell policymakers what they need to promote and improve their classrooms through the Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning (TELL) survey, conducted in February and March. Professional development opportunities are a major component through such partnerships as those formed with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and Battelle Memorial Institute. These collaborations provide support for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professional development for K-12 teachers, the College Access and Success Network, more effective teacher preparation programs, and enhanced stakeholder engagement and collaborations that bring together business and education to motivate teachers and students alike.


Success is the primary target and Tennessee is dedicated to improving struggling schools. The Achievement School District (ASD) staff continues plans for school implementation next year and utilization of successful strategies in schools with great academic need. Tennessee is challenging students, teachers, parents, administrators, and districts across the state to rise to the challenge of higher academic proficiency levels and benchmarks.


Three years ago, Tennessee's education system struggled with poor student outcomes and inadequate standards that did not properly prepare students for the demands of college or work after high school. Today, Tennessee is in position to achieve proficiency, and is committed to the leading the nation in developing education leaders.


This past year has been a unique year in education reform across the state. More accurately, the past year of education in Tennessee can be best described as unprecedented. As Tennessee transitions into a new administration under Governor Haslam, the state remains committed to upholding and pressing forward with key factors and goals of the First to the Top plan for the future of all students.